June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Introduction. Faculty and students have unique educational and professional needs and priorities. Faculty traditionally focus their efforts on research, service, and teaching on the path toward promotion and tenure, with less emphasis placed on translating findings outside of the lab. Alternatively, graduate students seeking careers in industry or as entrepreneurs have a keen interest in innovation and commercialization and hope to develop skills in this area. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to address the opportunities and challenges of commercialization and entrepreneurship while also meeting the demands of academia. Our objective was to develop a course to meet the unique needs of both groups by providing students with real-world experience in technology commercialization while at the same time providing Faculty with structured support to bring their discoveries and innovations to patients. Approach. In collaboration with REMOVED, we created a semester-long course, “Lab-to-Market: Accelerating Biomedical Innovation” aimed at providing interdisciplinary teams with an introduction to the specialized frameworks and essential tools necessary for biomedical technology commercialization. Graduate students from the School of Engineering and Business School were embedded on project teams comprised of clinical and engineering Faculty and post-docs and centered on existing University technologies. The two major learning objectives were 1) to succinctly describe the unmet clinical need, stakeholder requirements, and business opportunities and risks for their technology and 2) to package and pitch the idea to best position it for partnership and follow-on investment. Each course session included a lecture and team presentations, and featured practical exercises and group feedback supplemented with content on topics applicable to accelerating commercialization success. Project teams worked systematically through the iterations necessary to create a plan for market readiness, while being supported by a peer learning environment and a coaching network of functional and domain experts. Seasoned industry executives and serial entrepreneurs provided advice, feedback, and guidance on the issues faced in developing a path to commercializing, and assessment of learning outcomes, course dynamics, and effectiveness was achieved through pre- and post-course evaluations. Results. Pre- and post-course survey results reflected substantial increases in knowledge in all areas of product commercialization. Both faculty and students also reported a marked improvement in their ability to pitch their technology to potential investors and stakeholders. Faculty reported that student support on their project teams was a critical driver toward their ability to move the project forward while juggling multiple other demands of academia, and students reported that the course provided them with a real-world experience in technology commercialization and in some cases influenced their career path. Finally, the technology transfer office reported that teams who went through the course were better at communicating the value of their technologies to potential licensees and strategic partners, thus increasing the likelihood that technologies would exit the university and get closer to helping patients. Conclusions: This course successfully met the needs of both students and Faculty by providing students with an immersive real-world training in technology commercialization, while also providing Faculty with additional support on translating their academic discoveries. While at times logistically challenging, the multi-disciplinary approach improved participants’ experience immensely and increased overall satisfaction with the course.
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